UFC Undisputed 2010
Developer: Yukes
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 2 player local or online
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This is the second in what looks like becoming a yearly release from Yukes, previously best known for their WWE wrestling games. With the first real competition coming later this year when EA release their own Mixed Martial Arts simulator (despite having previously told UFC Chairman Dana White they had no interest in MMA as it was ‘not a real sport’), Yukes needed to step up their game from last year’s version to stay ahead of the copycats and for the most part, they have.

For starters, the game’s roster has been hugely expanded and updated from last year with all the current UFC fighters now having their own high-res textured skins, instead of just using the Create A Fighter (CAF) skin, making them look much more realistic. The game also includes some great custom animations and AI settings for the UFC fighters, making them look and act much more like their real-life counterparts; BJ Penn looks twitchy and hyped up, standing up rather than taking the stool for most of the time between rounds; Georges St-Pierre looks calm and in control and will take you down whenever he can (i.e. almost continuously); Clay Guida is in this year, now that Yukes have worked out how to animate his hair, and he looks, moves and attacks like a hyperactive caveman, just as he should (his hair actually still looks terrible when he’s standing still, but once he starts moving it’s fine). The major disappointment in an otherwise well animated game is the preset KO animations, most of which are re-used from last year. No spectacular Gonzaga vs. Cro Cop or Machida vs. Evans knockouts here; no matter where or how hard you hit someone, they fall in one of a half-dozen or so ways, with no ragdoll physics to vary the motions.

The rapid turnover of fighters in the UFC and contract problems with fighters signed to EA’s game mean there are some odd discrepancies though. For example, Andrei Arlovski is in, despite having been fighting with UFC rivals Affliction and Strikeforce for several years. Other fighters who’ve been dropped more recently are still in the game, but most people will be glad to still see Dan Henderson, Mark Coleman and Kimbo Slice present, even if it is just so they can punch out Kimbo. Randy Couture is missing because he signed with EA, but you can always make your own version using the extremely comprehensive CAF which allows you to pick and choose your own moves this time, instead of just choosing from pre-defined sets of striking and grappling styles like last year. New for 2010 is the option to choose from conventional or southpaw stances for your character (and the ability to switch between them), as well as separately choosing which will be your most powerful hand. There’s also a list of pre-defined CAF names which allow the excellent in-game rendition of super-suave UFC announcer Bruce Buffer to announce you by name on your Octagon entrance; characters with names not in the preset list are announced by their nicknames. Unfortunately, the list is mostly designed to recreate MMA superstars missing from the game, rather than allow the maximum number of players to use their own names. For example, you can create the intentionally misspelled licensing-issue-dodging Randy ‘The Natural’ Kouture or Feyodor ‘The Last Emperor’ Emelianenko, which is all well and good, but how many people do you actually know called ‘Randy’ or ‘Emelianenko’?

Yukes have been rather generous in the ratings system for most of the fighters this time, meaning not only is it possible to beat Georges St-Pierre with BJ Penn at Welterweight, but the game actually set up the UK’s own middle of the pack Middleweight Mike Bisping as the Champ in the career mode, where he had somehow displaced Anderson Silva, arguably the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world. It might make multiplayer a bit more varied when all fighters have similar ratings and no offence to the guy, since he lives about 45 minutes from our house and could probably kill me with one punch, but seriously, Mike Bisping as Middleweight Champ?

As well as the graphical improvements, there are a fair number of changes to the basic gameplay too. Several new positions now exist; you can now take someone’s back on the ground, or grapple people against the cage, which plays a huge part in the action of the real UFC. During ground fighting, the fighter in the dominant position can now choose to ‘posture up’, sitting upright on top of the opponent and raining down harder punches but sacrificing some control over his victim. You can also flick the left stick while holding ‘RB’ to sway out of the way of your opponent’s strikes, think Anderson Silva vs. Forrest Griffin, making stand-up fights a lot more dynamic. Unfortunately, the relatively long throw of the 360’s analogue sticks means actually flicking them fast enough to do a sway is rather more difficult than it should be, but when you pull it off, it allows for very effective counter-fighting.

Grappling transitions, takedown attempts and defence, and submissions and submission escapes are all controlled by partial rotations of the right stick; major transitions are ¼ turns, starting from vertical, while minor transitions start 1/8 of a rotation further round. Having all the moves on the same stick lets you move from a clinch, through the takedown, to working for position on the ground and going for a submission very smoothly, but the stick movement difference between the major and minor transition actions is so small; it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pull off the one you want without a lot of practice. Practice is absolutely necessary if you want to really master the game; it’s probably one of the deepest and most complex fighting games ever. Every move or tactic has an effective counter, just like in real MMA. Where the real complication arises is in the huge variety of positions you can find yourself in, with the moves available to you dependent on whether you and/or your opponent are standing or on the ground, how close you are, whether you are in a clinch, pressing against the cage or in any of the dozens of different combinations of grappling and ground positions. Although there is a very comprehensive tutorial mode in the game, it’s as awful as it was in the first one; for even the simplest move, you’re forced to read a screen of text then watch a usually unnecessary demo of the move before you even get to try it for yourself. This means that even learning the basics of moving your character takes so long you get fed up, which is a real shame because you’ll never get to grips with the real depth of the fighting system without spending a tedious period in the tutorials.

It’s not just the tutorials which become a chore though, the Career mode is also repetitive and (in between fights) boring. You start the career with almost no moves at all and with a fighter who moves so slowly, you’ll wonder if the game’s broken. This isn’t helped by the fact that there are no longer any preset combos in the game; while this allows you more freedom to create your own, the lack of flowing animation from one move to the next makes fighting feel very disjointed with slower characters. To progress, you must attend training camps where accurate renditions of famous MMA trainers will teach you new moves, which takes a week, as do all the other training options. Training with top MMA camps sounds great, but it’s actually even worse than the tutorials! All it consists of is you having to hit high or low training pads a certain number of times to learn the new move; you get extra points for hitting the pads using the new move, but even if you never use it, you learn it eventually. When you’re not learning new moves, you can work on your strength, conditioning or speed; whichever ones you aren’t working on will fall away rapidly

Unfortunately, the same goes for you core skills; at the start of your career, you are given a set number of skill points to split across 16 categories of striking, grappling, and submission offence and defence. You need to put a point into each of these skills every couple of weeks or they will decay; the points are earned by sparring sessions which are scored by simply calculating how many more times you hit your opponent than he hit you. Unless you max out your sparring score, you won’t have enough points to maintain your core skills, never mind improve on them, making it perfectly possible for you to lose all your skill points in most of the categories within a few months. This was obviously meant to simulate a fighter concentrating on a different skill and losing their touch in an old one, but making it possible for a fighter to forget literally everything they knew about striking or wrestling within a few months is just stupid. The old game handled this much better, with a fighter only needing to worry about losing their skills once they were reaching retirement age. Doing any kind of training increases your fatigue, while resting to reduce fatigue decreases your conditioning; balancing the two to be in top condition for a fight while still maintaining your skills is a game in itself, but about as much fun as filling in a spreadsheet. Not only that, it’s also unrealistic for a fighter to have to work all that out for himself; that’s what strength and conditioning coaches and nutritionists are for.

Another annoying addition is the constant pestering from Rachelle Leah in Career mode; she emails you every week to try and get you to agree to let her watch you work out, or go to a UFC event. While that would be awesome in real life, having a weird-haired and deformed looking polygonal version of the greatest Octagon Girl of all time trying to drag you away from your all-important training becomes a real pain, especially since the ‘Press Workouts’ she wants you to do only earn you a tiny bit of ‘cred’ (which helps you get better fights sooner) compared with the amount you get for winning a fight. If you want to, you can attend UFC events in the crowd and predict fight results for more tiny cred bonuses, although the tweaked stats of the fighters mean that knowledge of their actual skills is no help here; you might as well just guess randomly. For some reason, you can even choose to watch the entire in game PPV event and watch the computer-controlled competitors fighting for an hour (matches are played at double speed)! Although this is extremely well presented and very close to watching the real thing, quite why you’d want to do this is a real mystery.

Like the WWE games that Yukes is known for, there are also several scripted sequences depicting important events in your career, such as Dana White inviting you to join the UFC. These are awful; terribly animated and with some horrible voice acting from the player character. Dana White, UFC commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, and even the referees all do a great job, but the player voices are all pretty bad, especially the Mockney-accented “Briddish” (English) one (so bad that after playing half a career with it I actually started again with an American voice instead). You get a chance to shape your personality in the game during interviews with Joe Rogan after each fight, where you can choose to answer each of his questions as a Face or Heel character, which affects your cred and how the crowd reacts to you. All the responses are very generic with nothing approaching Brock Lesnar’s infamous post-fight UFC 100 interview, and given that they’re the same after each fight and read out by the terrible voice actors, you’ll probably want to skip through them as fast as possible.

Luckily it seems Yukes realise that Career mode can be a bit of a drag and they have included the option to replay classic fights from UFC history while trying to meet specific victory conditions (avoiding all takedowns, winning in a specific round or with a specific move, etc.), which allow you to unlock footage of the real fights. They have also included the arcade style Title Mode, where you select a fighter and take him through a series of increasingly difficult opponents to claim the title. After completing this, you unlock the very similar Title Defence Mode, where you select a fighter and defend the title against increasingly difficult opponents, the only difference being that this time there are no continues should you lose a match.

As with most fighting games, a lot of the fun is to be had from playing against human opponents, which is possible both locally and (theoretically) online. While local play works exactly as it should, something is seriously wrong with the game’s online component; during testing, the game failed to synchronise and lost connection at least seven times out of ten, despite maintaining the Live Party chat between players. Sadly even successful connections can be very laggy. As well as straightforward fighting, there is also a new online Training Camp feature, where players can set up Clan-style Camps, with tracking of different camps’ performance in online fights. Unfortunately you need to be invited to join a camp, so unless you’re already pretty good at the game, you may never find a use for that option. The game also syncs up with THQ’s servers (sometimes for up to a minute) every time you switch on, seemingly to download these Camp performance stats and update the RSS feeds that run along the bottom of the menus, giving bits of trivia on fighters and advertising future UFC events (although the game continued to advertise UFC 115 as ‘upcoming’ several weeks after it had aired). The online features on the 360 are currently either so broken (apparently the PS3 version is somewhat better) or pointless that the game is best played with your Ethernet lead pulled out; at least it loads faster then. It’s also worth mentioning that online play is unlocked with a single-use code on the back of the manual. Rent or buy the game used and it’ll cost you 400 MS points to get online, but apparently the publishers of most online games will be doing this soon.

It’s certainly an improvement over last year’s game in many ways, but in a couple of areas (Career mode and the tutorial presentation especially) the game has if anything taken a step backwards. While it offers room for improvement for next year, it also offers an easier than expected target for EA’s upcoming MMA title. If you already own last year’s version and are an MMA fan, it might be worth waiting for EA’s game before splashing the cash on this one. If you don’t have last year’s version or are a huge UFC fan, buy this game; it’s the only place you can play as the big names of the franchise and it’s an extremely realistic representation of the sport, albeit a slightly flawed one from a gaming point of view.

Best Bits

- As close as you’re going to get to being in a UFC PPV event without risking bodily injury.
- Updated roster of very realistic UFC fighters.
- The sway system and new ground and cage positions are big improvements over last year.
Worst Bits

- Uninspiring KO animations.
- Career mode is a real drag.
- Broken online play.

by: Smurfzursky

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